Strength and grace are given invisibly by Christ’s baptism in the Jordan

STRENGTH against enemies, O Word, didst thou give by thy Baptism unto us who out of heartfelt love (πόθος) revere thy saving governance (οίκονομία), which willingly thou didst bring to completion, delivering mortals from the curse which had spread from Eden; for that we sing: Blessed is he who is made visible, our God glory be to thee.

They that once had garments of skins because of Adam, putting them on in the fall, today are putting them off in the running waters of the Jordan, in the Baptism of the Lord; speaking divine things with angels, unto him let us cry out: Blessed is he who is made visible, our God glory be to thee.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the holy Spirit
both now and for ever, and to the ages of ages.

LET us, O ye faithful, raise our hymn to the greatness of God’s beneficence towards us; for upon our transgression, he became man and carried out our thorough cleansing in the Jordan, who alone is clean and without stain, sanctifying me and the waters, and breaking the heads of the dragons in the water. Let us therefore draw water with gladness, brethren; for to those who draw it trustingly, the grace of the Spirit is given invisibly from Christ, who is God and the Saviour of our souls.

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Apolytikion.

WHEN thou wast baptized in the Jordan, O Lord,
the worship of the Trinity was made manifest;
for the voice of the Begetter was bearing witness
before thee, naming thee beloved Son,
and the Spirit in the form of a dove
was confirming the certainty of the spoken word*.
O Christ God, who appeared and lighted the world,
glory be to thee.

In the video, after the singing of the hymn above, Archimandrite Timotheos Kilifis gives a short summary of the feast. He explains that the baptismal “Feast of Lights” is also called Theophany (showing God) and Epiphany (showing forth) because it is the manifestation of the light of the Blessed Trinity, the Father from heaven, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, and the Son in the form of a servant, who is baptized by John the Baptist.

At Vespers for January 12. Source.

St Bede: Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also

“IF I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I do go, I will send him to you.”

He does not say this in the sense that he could not, while being on earth, give the Spirit to the disciples, since it is plainly there to read that when he appeared to them after his resurrection he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.

Rather it was because, while he was on earth and living among them bodily, they were not strong enough by themselves to raise their minds to the gifts of heavenly grace for which we should thirst.

When he had ascended into heaven, however, they transferred their every desire onto him just as much there, very much as they had heard in another place: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.

So being now made fit for the Spirit, they were not saddened by his death, but gladdened by the gift of his promise, with Luke bearing witness to it in saying:

“And so it was that as he blessed them, he departed from them, and was carried into the heavens. And they returned to Jerusalem worshipping, with great joy, and were always to found in the Temple, praising and blessing God.”

St Bede, Homily for the Third Sunday after Easter. (My translation.)

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Priest: Let us lift up our hearts!
People: We lift them up unto the Lord.

We praise thee, we bless thee,
we give thanks unto thee, O Lord.

From the Anaphora in the Divine Liturgy.

The mercy of peace, the sacrifice of praise

JUDE, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.

Jude 1-2

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An Orthodox bishop serving the Divine Liturgy

Every time the minister says “Peace be unto all”, he gives peace so that men might be reconciled not only among themselves, but also with God.

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THE people respond to the minister, “The mercy of peace, the sacrifice of praise.”

Jesus Christ himself confirms the word of the Prophet: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” which means that God, rather than another sacrifice, prefers and wants from people fellow-feeling and a loving attitude between them. …

St Isidore of Pelusium interprets the “the mercy of peace, the sacrifice of praise” with which the people reply as follows: he sees it not only as love and concord between men, but also as an inseparable union with God himself.

“Thou didst grant peace to us, that there may be concord among us; but grant unto us, that we may be one together with thee; having peace by the grace of the Holy Spirit, may we be inseparable from thy love”.

That is, every time the minister says “Peace be unto all”, and he says it many times during the course of the Divine Liturgy, he gives peace so that men might be reconciled not only among themselves, but also with God.

First with God, and then afterwards among themselves. Because, if we do not make our peace with God, we cannot have peace among ourselves.

Metropolitan Dionysius of Servia and Kozani, “The Divine Liturgy”. Source.

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“The Mercy of Peace”, by Maxim Berezovsky (1745-77)

Priest. Let us stand aright, let us stand with fear, let us attend, that we may make the Holy Offering in peace.
Choir. The mercy of peace, the sacrifice of praise.
Priest. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Choir. And with thy spirit.
Priest. Let us lift up our hearts.
Choir. We lift them up unto the Lord.
Priest. Let us give thanks unto the Lord.
Choir. It is meet and right to worship the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit: the Trinity, one in essence, and undivided.
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth; Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory: Hosanna in the highest, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Source.

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AT the prayers of the Mother of God, make peaceful the lives of us who cry to you: Merciful Lord, glory to you!

At Vespers on Monday Evening. Source.

What is a true ‘theologian’?

I JOHN, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last…

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore.

Revelation 1:9-11, 17-18

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An icon of St John the Apostle and Theologian

An icon of St John the Apostle and Theologian. “If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian” (Evagrius the Solitary).

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Today is the Feast of the Falling Asleep of St John the Apostle and Theologian, author of the Gospel and Letters which bear his name, and also of the Revelation or Apocalypse.

“Theologian” does not mean “scholar who studies Christian history, beliefs and ethics”.  As Evagrius the Solitary (“On Prayer” §61) wrote:

IF you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian.

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NO man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.

1 John 4:12-13

WHEN the intellect practices the virtues correctly, it advances in moral understanding.

When it practices contemplation, it advances in spiritual knowledge.

The first leads the spiritual contestant to discriminate between virtue and vice; the second leads the participant to the inner qualities of incorporeal and corporeal things.

Finally, the intellect is granted the grace of theology when, carried on wings of love beyond these two former stages, it is taken up into God and with the help of the Holy Spirit discerns – as far as this is possible for the human intellect – the qualities of God.

IF you are about to enter the realm of theology, do not seek to descry God’s inmost nature, for neither the human intellect nor that of any other being under God can experience this; but try to discern, as far as possible, the qualities that appertain to His nature – qualities of eternity, infinity, indeterminateness, goodness, wisdom, and the power of creating, preserving and judging creatures, and so on.

For he who discovers these qualities, to however small an extent, is a great theologian.

Maximus the Confessor, “Second Century on Love”, §26, 27.

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An Orthodox hermit

“He whose mind has outstripped the very being of created things has come, as a true theologian, close to the One through unknowing.” (St Maximus the Confessor, +662.) The photo is of an Orthodox hermit, a theologian.

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LOVE not the world, neither the things that are in the world.

If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

1 John 2:15-17

HE who is not affected by changes in sensible things practices the virtues in a manner that is truly pure.

He who does not permit the outward appearances of sensible things to imprint themselves on his intellect has received the true doctrine of created beings.

He whose mind has outstripped the very being of created things has come, as a true theologian, close to the One through unknowing.

Maximus the Confessor, “First Century on Theology”, §93.

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O HEAVENLY King, the Comforter, Spirit of Truth
Which art everywhere present, and fillest all things,
the treasury of blessings, supplier of Life:
Come, and make thy dwelling in us,
And cleanse us from every blemish:

And save our souls, O Good One.

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I HAVE yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

John 16:12-14

DO not try to embark on the higher forms of contemplation before you have achieved complete dispassion, and do not pursue what lies as yet beyond your reach. If your wish is to become a theologian and a contemplative, ascend by the path of ascetic practice and through self-purification acquire what is pure.

Do not pursue theology beyond the limits of your present state of development:it is wrong for us who are still drinking the milk of the virtues to attempt to soar to the heights of theology, and if we do so we will flounder like fledglings, however great the longing roused within us by the honey of spiritual knowledge.

But, once purified by self-restraint and tears, we will be lifted up from the earth like Elijah or Habakkuk (cf. 2Kgs 2:11; Bel and Dr., verses 36-39), anticipating the moment when we will be caught up into the clouds (cf. 1 Thess 4:17); and transported beyond the world of the senses by undistracted prayer, pure and contemplative, we may then in our search for God touch the fringe of theology.

St Theognostos, “On the Practice of the Virtues” §6.

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An icon of the return of the prodigal son

The divine “thirsts to be thirsted for, longs to be longed for, and loves to be loved.” A detail from an icon of the return of the prodigal son.

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GOD is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. … We love him, because he first loved us.

1 John 4:16, 19

THEOLOGIANS call the divine sometimes an erotic force, sometimes love, sometimes that which is intensely longed for and loved.

Consequently, as an erotic force and as love, the divine itself is subject to movement; and as that which is intensely longed for and loved it moves towards itself everything that is receptive of this force and love.

To express this more clearly; the divine itself is subject to movement since it produces an inward state of intense longing and love in those receptive to them; and it moves others since by nature it attracts the desire of those who are drawn towards it.

In other words, it moves others and itself moves since it thirsts to be thirsted for, longs to be longed for, and loves to be loved.

Maximus the Confessor, “Fifth Century on Theology”, §84.

We have the grace of the Spirit

THEN cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.

But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.

Then he suffered him.

And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Matthew 3:13-17

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An icon of the Baptism of Christ

The Baptism of Christ

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A supremely good man, a social reformer – even a terrible God thundering laws from a distant throne – none of these could give what Christ gives.

In the extract below, St Athanasius of Alexandria (+373) explains that only God incarnate could have helped us.

Only our Christ could both share in our humiliation as man, and also as God grant us his exaltation and his Holy Spirit.

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THROUGH whom, then, and from whom should the Spirit be given, if not through the Son, whose Spirit he is too?

And when were we enabled to receive him, other than when the Word became man?

And, as the text from the Apostle shows (Phil 2:5-11), we would not have been redeemed and highly exalted, if he who is in the form of God had not taken the form of a servant.

Likewise, David also shows that in no other way would we have shared in the Spirit or been sanctified, except by the giver of the Spirit, the Word himself, declaring that he had been anointed with the Spirit for our sake (see Ps 45 [LXX 44]).

And therefore we have securely received the Spirit, after he was declared to have been anointed in the flesh (Mt 3:13-17).

For first the flesh was sanctified in him; and once he was declared to have received it, as man, for flesh’s sake, we had the grace of the Spirit following on, receiving out of his fulness (Jn 1:16).

St Athanasius, “Discourses Against The Arians” Discourse I c. xii (§50). This is my translation: see CCEL for another.

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O CHRIST, who with thy hands fashioned mankind, as a man thou didst bend the neck beneath the hand of the Forerunner, humbling thyself that thou mightest exalt me, who of old was humbled and destroyed; glory be unto thy glorious and fearful dispensation.

The cleansing of souls is in preparing; the illumination, the loosing of dread deeds, hath settled his dwelling. River Jordan be glad, all creation dance, earth and sea clap your hands, as ye glorify Christ, the supremely Good.

Thou comest, as the fullness of all good things, crying out to thy servant (who, full of holiness, is amazed at thy condescension): ‘Draw near, baptize me; for I wish to fill the nature of mortals with sanctification and purity’.

Canon at Matins on the Forefeast of the Feast of Holy Lights (Theophany, Epiphany). My non-specialist translation, from Analogion with help from Anastasis.

He brings down and grants the Spirit unto us

AND when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.

John 20:22

BUT we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

2 Corinthians 3:18

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An icon of St Cyril of Alexandria (+444)

An icon of St Cyril of Alexandria (+444)

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[PAUL] says that Christ will not be formed in them save by partaking of the Holy Spirit, and living according to the law of the Gospel.

Therefore, as in the firstfruits of creation, which is made regenerate into incorruption and glory and into the Image of God, Christ establishes anew His own Spirit in His disciples.

For it was necessary that we should also perceive this truth, namely, that He brings down and grants the Spirit unto us.

St Cyril of Alexandria (+444), Commentary on St John’s Gospel Book XII (On John 20:22). Translation from CCEL.

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CREATE in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit in my inward parts.

Cast me not away from thy presence; and remove not thy holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of thy salvation: establish me with thy directing Spirit.

Psalm 50(51):10-12.

Streams of salvation, streams of living water, streams of love

IN the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

John 7:37-38.

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Icon of Christ the Life-giving fount

Icon of Christ the Life-giving fount

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Today is Wednesday of ‘Mid-Pentecost’. There’s more information at OrthodoxWiki.

STANDING in the midst of the Temple, at the mid-point of the feast inspired by God, you cried out: Whoever thirsts, let them come to me and drink;

For whoever drinks of this divine stream of mine, rivers of my teachings will flow from his belly; whoever believes in me, who have been sent from my divine Begetter, will be glorified with me.

Therefore we cry to you: Glory to you, Christ God, for you have richly poured out for your servants the streams of your love for mankind.

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The language of flowing waters is to be found throughout the Old Testament as a symbol of God, and especially creative Divine Wisdom.

HO, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.

Isaiah 55:1-3.

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DRAW near unto me, ye unlearned, and dwell in the house of learning.

Wherefore are ye slow, and what say ye to these things, seeing your souls are very thirsty?

I opened my mouth, and said, Buy her for yourselves without money.

Put your neck under the yoke, and let your soul receive instruction: she is hard at hand to find. Behold with your eyes, how that I have but little labour, and have gotten unto me much rest.

The Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach 51:24-27.

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In the New Testament, creative Divine Wisdom has taken flesh, and is Jesus Christ. In this way, Christ’s true divinity is subtly implied. For example:

AT that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Mt 11:25, 28-30. Compare Sirach 51:24-27 above.

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Our Liturgy has followed St John and the other New Testament writers in identifying Divine Wisdom with Jesus Christ.

AS you make the water of wisdom and life well up for the world, you invite all, O Saviour, to draw the streams of salvation; for one who accepts your divine law, by it quenches the burning coals of error; and so they will never thirst, nor ever have their fill of you, Master, heavenly King.

Therefore we glorify your might, Christ God, as we ask you to send down richly on your servants forgiveness of offences.

Kathisma at Matins, Fourth Wednesday after Pascha (Mid-Pentecost). Translation from Anastasis.

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Finally, a Psalm.

O GOD, thou art my God; early will I seek thee:
my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;

To see thy power and thy glory,
so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.

Because thy lovingkindness is better than life,
my lips shall praise thee.

Thus will I bless thee while I live:
I will lift up my hands in thy name.

Psalm 62(63):1-4.